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Relieving pressure on Emergency Departments

The RCP Health Informatics Unit discuss their forthcoming standardised discharge summary project, and why its time to tackle the rising pressures in the emergency department, for the sake of our doctors and our patients.

It is no secret that Emergency Departments (ED) in the United Kingdom are facing significant challenges with ever increasing numbers of ED attendances, inappropriate attendances and staff shortages. In spite of this, there are success stories demonstrating that innovative solutions can lead to significant improvements. 

There are success stories demonstrating that innovative solutions can lead to significant improvements.

For example, a recent article in the Guardian described how information sharing systems in East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust have helped them meet the 4 hour standard. By electronically sharing data with external organisations, the trust is now able to discharge patients more quickly, freeing up hospital beds for people that need them and therefore helping to relieve some of the additional pressure in the ED.

The RCP HIU is currently working with the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) to develop a national standard ED discharge summary. Once in place, the aim is for the discharge summary to be sent electronically from ED to GP practice, improving patient safety and quality of care.

The project is part of a wider programme of work to improve transfers of care across the NHS (hospital discharge summaries, outpatient letters referrals, etc) all using the same headings make life easier for both hospital clinicians and GPs.

With clinical leadership from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and involvement of representatives from other emergency care professionals, the project will also work in collaboration with patients and carers to ensure that their needs are both considered and met. The standard will be aligned with the related Emergency Care Data Set project; this will ensure that healthcare professionals in ED are able to record once in the patient record, and for data to then be extracted into both a discharge summary and an Emergency Care Data Set. The result of this will be a better quality of information available as well as a significant time saving for busy ED professionals.

Due for completion in November 2016, the new standard will be turned into an electronic message specification by NHS Digital, which GP and ED system suppliers will be able to use in their information systems.

If you would like more information about this project or contribute to the consultation please email the Health Informatics Unit team at informatics@rcplondon.ac.uk

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